MadSci Network: Agricultural Sciences

Re: What kind of careers are there in Agricultural science

Date: Wed Sep 10 09:05:13 2003
Posted By: Jeremy Cherfas, Staff, Public Awareness, IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute)
Area of science: Agricultural Sciences
ID: 1063153211.Ag

Dear Angelia

That's a very broad question, and very interesting. Kind of like "how long 
is a piece of string?".

Essentially, I suppose, agricultural sciences are using scientific methods 
to improve agriculture. But the actual jobs are very wide indeed.

Breeding is important, for animals and plants. That involves selecting 
parents with particular qualities that you are interested in and then 
selecting the offspring that fit the goals. It can be very time-consuming 
to make an improved variety or breed. Wheat breeders, for example, might 
have to examine hundreds of thousands of plants to find one with the 
qualities they are looking for. Animal breeders do similar sorts of 
exercises, coming up with new breeds that maybe grow more quickly, or are 
less susceptible to stress.

Production scientists, sometimes called agronomists, work to improve whole 
farming systems. So, for example, they might do experiments to find out 
whether different coloured plastic mulches give higher yields of tomatoes. 
Or whether milking cows three times a day is better than once or twice.

Some agricultural scientists specialize in working with farmers to control 
pests and diseases in different ways. Some prefer to use synthetic 
chemicals, other like biological control, and some work to help farmers be 

There are agricultural economists who work out how farmers can make a 
better or more reliable profit.

Lots of agricultural scientists work as extension agents, making sure that 
the research that their colleagues have done is used and understood by 
real farmers. Many work in developing countries to improve food production 

Some of them might even be writers, like me, just trying to spread the 

These are just some ideas that came to me. I've probably left out lots of 
possibilities. You could take a look here or there for some other ideas.

Thanks for giving me a nice break in a busy day.


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